How to Cope with a Bad Race


Imagine this…

For the past 6 months, you have been working very hard, training for your next race, which you believed will be the best race of your life.

The thought of a new, stellar personal best kept you excited and motivated. All the workouts appeared to be going well and you felt mentally and physically ready to show everyone, especially yourself, what you were made of.

You thought: “With all this great training I’ve been doing, I’m going to ace the race.”

Not only that, but you were looking forward to that race for several months. You may have sacrificed a lot of social gatherings, watching your favorite TV shows, neglected your household duties (hello…dirty laundry) and missed out on all the fun things on social media just so you could train for the race…

Unfortunately, race day comes and instead of it being that amazing experience you were fantasizing about, it ends up being a disaster.

Not only did you run slower than you thought you would, but you also felt terrible the entire time. You contemplated dropping out of the race multiple times and said to yourself: “never again.”

Upon finishing the race, you doubted yourself and your training as you wondered why your hard work did not yield you a personal best.

Experiences like the aforementioned are unpredictable and can have a negative effect on your future races.

However, there are ways to turn that experience around and cope with it without feeling discouraged.

1. Understand that bad races happen to all runners. You can’t run one PR after another each time you race. This is why PRs are worth celebrating. Also, the faster you get, the less frequent and more special PRs become.

Even Paula Radcliffe, the fastest female marathoner and current world record holder, has had her share of bad races.

Therefore, no one is immune to a less than stellar performance.

2. Learn something from that experience. Each race is an opportunity to learn more about yourself as a runner. Take the time to analyze what went wrong and what you can do to improve your performance next time.

3. Sign up for another race. So what if you didn’t get a 10k personal best in that race in May. Try again in a few months after getting some more effective training under your belt.

4. There is never any guarantee how you will feel on race day. The body goes through cycles. Notice how some days you are more tired than others?

Let’s face it, sometimes your 3 mile run feels like 30 miles, meanwhile other times your 15 mile run feels super easy.

Accept that race day is no different than any training day because your body doesn’t really know that you really, really need that 10k PR.

Sure, you can rest, recover and prepare, but some days, the top performance just isn’t there. That’s OK.

It’s days like these that will make you appreciate new personal bests when they happen.

5. List the positive takeaways from the experience. Even if the race didn’t go the way you wanted, there have to be some positive things that you got out of it.

Did you meet new friends? Did you learn anything that will make your next race better? Did you get to chat with some cool people? Chances are, something good came out of your not-so-great experience.

Lastly, a bad race is not the end of the world. Even Olympic level athletes sometimes experience it. The trick is to evaluate what went wrong and then create a plan that will help you do better next time.

Every race is an opportunity to learn. Each and every experience will help you become a more well-rounded runner, even if you’re feeling quite bummed out about a bad race.

Trust me, no one but you is going to remember your negative experience for long. Therefore, it’s best to evaluate it, learn from it and move on.

Scott Harrigan
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